History of The Clan Irwin Association


The Clan Irwin Association is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit Corporation based in the USA. It operates Worldwide and draws primarily on the cultural heritage of two Scottish families, Irving of Bonshaw and Irvine of Drum. The Association was initiated on 21 March 1976 by our Founding President, Ralph Irwin. It is the successor to the “Irvine Society,” which existed from its foundation in 1910 until the 1930s. The purpose of the Association is to promote fellowship among those of the surname of Irwin and its many spelling variations, to gather genealogical information through research and exchange; and to record and disseminate the proud and long history of the name.


It is now widely recognized that the way we spell our name matters little. However, there is less consensus on the origin of the name and when it was first recorded. Etymologically the royal historiographer, Dr. Christopher Irvin, claimed the name came from Erinveine, meaning a strong and hearty man from the west. Today it is generally thought to come from ir, meaning green, pure or fresh, and vin or avon meaning river or stream, although experts differ. Most believe this refers to the river Irvine in Ayrshire. Strathirewin in Ayrshire was first mentioned in the 1120s, and the historian Hovedon mentioned Castle Irvine there in 1184. There is also an Irvine Burn in eastern Dumfriesshire, first mentioned in the 17th century.

It used to be said that the earliest reference to the surname in public records was to Gilchristo filio (son of) Eruini, who was a witness in Galloway between 1124 and 1165, but it is now recognized that this Eruini was a misreading of Brunn. The next earliest reference is to Robert de Hirewine of Kilwinning in Ayrshire who witnessed deeds between 1226 and 1269, and to Reginald de Irewin who appeared between 1242 and 1258 as Archdeacon of Teviotdale in Glasgow and a scholar at Oxford.

Tradition in Scotland, recorded by Dr. Christopher Irvin in about 1680, has it that the Irvines of Drum, Perth and Orkney are all descended from the Irvings of Bonshaw in Dumfriesshire, and that this family originally came from Ayrshire. He claimed this line went back to Crinus Ervinus, the father of King Duncan I, and others have claimed this line went back to the High Kings of Ireland.